Decoding Nutrition Labels

Alex and I received our first shipment of the newest health bar on the market, BEACHBARS (Beachbody’s first!), and went to compare its nutrition with our prior snack obsession, Larabar. Of course, we know how to compare nutrition labels to see which is superior – hands down, a BEACHBAR wins every time with over double the protein, double the fiber, and a third the sugar – but we realized that we still had a lot to learn on how to use nutrition labels as an effective health tool. Since we already narrowed our selection down to one item, how can the label clue us in if it is actually healthy or not? Read on to learn how to go about Decoding Nutrition Labels.

decoding nutrition labels

As a lot of you know, we’ve started the new online nutrition video program, 2B Mindset, with registered dietician nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein. In one of the videos, she dives into what to look for in nutrition labels:

1. Be Aware of the Serving Size.

Who only eats two oreos, right? Well, that is the serving size so take note and monitor how many calories you’re consuming.

2. Look at the Percent Daily Value (%DV).

The percent daily values are based on an adult diet of 2,000 calories (if you don’t know your appropriate daily caloric intake, hit “reply” and we can help you out.) If you see a serving with anything less than 5% DV, that’s low. If it is higher than 20% DV, that’s high.

Sometime labels only have the DV in mg without a percent sign. Also, nutrients like calcium, trans fat, and protein are often only listed in grams. The FDA has a handy chart that breaks down each nutrient’s daily value target.

3. Avoid These Ingredients: Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium.

When reading a food label, what constitutes “low fat” or “free of cholesterol/sodium?” Typically, it means when there are fats <3g (including trans and saturated fats), cholesterol <20mg, and sodium <5g per serving. “Low in calories” simply means 25% fewer calories than its typical counterpart. Don’t be fooled, these claims can be misleading! In fact, most health experts recommend less than 2.3g daily of sodium daily.

4. Checklist for Buying Carbohydrates (Starchy Vegetables, Fruits, Beans, Whole Grains).

* Each serving size should be 150 calories or less.

* There is at least 1g of fiber for every 10g of total carbs.

* Cannot have any trans fats.

* The grams of fiber must exceed the grams of sugar.

5. Checklist for Buying “Accessories” (Healthy Fats, Condiments, Dressings, Beverages).

* Each serving size should be less than 40 calories per tablespoon.

* Cannot contain salt or sugar in the first two ingredients.

Pro Tip: Avoid buying any foods with unpronounceable ingredients like sucralose, aspartame, etc. There’s a reason why there are no food labels on an apple or cauliflower – whole foods don’t need any introduction!


additional reading list

13 Grocery Shopping Tips Nutritionists Swear By – Women’s Health Magazine

“Fortified foods aren’t necessarily healthy—some are highly refined and lacking in nutrients. If they have to convince you they’re healthy, they’re probably not.” —Katie Cavuto, M.S., R.D., the dietician for the Phillies and the Flyers

The Case Against Juicing Is Stronger Than Ever – TIME Magazine

“While your body likes the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants [in juice], juices lack fiber and don’t require chewing, so they’re less satiating than whole produce,” explains New York City-based dietitian Cynthia Sass.


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